April 06


Why Poetry? by Susan Knell

“One of the richest gifts we can give children is the gift of poetry,” as stated by the great children’s poet/anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins  Sharing poetry is such an easy thing to do, but many times neglected by teachers who think they have to “teach” poetry and therefore feel inadequate to do so. However, they are mistaken. We need to share poetry with children, introduce them to the sound, language, and fun of poems, no strings attached. This month we celebrate National Poetry Month, but poetry needs to flow freely in homes and classrooms year round.

I had the opportunity to meet Lee Bennett Hopkins and interview him in his home in Florida.  I have loved him since sharing his poetry with my elementary students beginning in 1982, so getting to meet him was a joy! I interviewed him for the poetry award he established with The International Literacy Association back in 1995. I had served twice on the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet and wanted to promote the award and the man himself. Between reading his many poetry anthologies and his professional books, Pass the Poetry, Please and Let Them Be Themselves, Lee has much to say on why teachers must share poetry with their students.  Here are some of his thoughts.

“Give children poetry—a gift from the past, a present for the future—words and thoughts and feelings they will remember, thank you for, their whole lives through.”

From Climb Into My Lap: First Poems To Read Together



“Poetry! There is nothing better in the field of literature to train ears and flash beautiful word-pictures before young minds. Where else can one find the imagery contained in poems? What other form of writing can say so much in just two or four or ten lines?


From  Let Them Be Themselves



“What is poetry? What is poetry to you? When you find it, when you come across the something that makes you say, ‘I can see it! I can hear it! I can feel it!’ –and when you know that neither you nor your children may ever seem the same again, you will have found out what poetry truly is.”


From Pass the Poetry, Please!



If there are still any naysayers questioning the importance of sharing poetry with children, here is an answer:


Why poetry?


Why sunsets?

Why trees?

Why birds?

Why seas?

Why you?

Why me?

Why friends?

Why families?

Why laugh?

Why cry?

Why hello?

Why good-bye?

Why poetry?


That’s why!


“Why Poetry?” by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Copyright 2008, reprinted by permission of Curtis-Brown Ltd.



If you’re not familiar with Mr. Hopkins’ poetry anthologies, please do yourself and your children/students a favor. No multiple-choice tests, no memorization, no analyzing, only reading poems aloud together for the sheer pleasure. Here are just a few of my many favorite Lee Bennett Hopkins jewels:


For more information, please visit Lee’s website: www.leebennetthopkins.com



Susan Knell is a professor at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, She teaches graduate courses in literacy education, and children’s/adolescent literature. Her interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins may be found on his website. She promotes poetry in the classroom as much as she can, and has carried a torch for Lee Bennett Hopkins since 1982!